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About the Author
Pat York lives outside of Buffalo, New York with her husband Jim.
Her fiction has appeared in TOMORROW and REALMS OF FANTASY, ODYSSEY and the anthologies FULL SPECTRUM 5, NEW ALTARS, THE ROYCROFT REVIEW and SILVER BIRCH BLOOD MOON, an alternate fairy tale anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
Her poem, "A Faerie's Tale" was nominated for the 1997 Rhysling Award and she was on the preliminary Nebula ballots in l996 and l998. She is currently a Nebula finalist in the short story category for "You Wandered Off Like A Foolish Child To Break Your Heart And Mine".
She attended Clarion '93, funded in part by a Donald Wollheim Scholarship granted by the New York Science Fiction Society. She has also received writing and research grants from the National Writer's Project, the National Endowment on the Arts through the Council on Basic Education and from Canisius College. She was a Fulbright Memorial Fund teacher-scholar in 1998.
She is currently shopping her first novel, set in far future Chautauqua County, New York.
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Harry's Harbor Inn wasn't all that much, as bars go. But it had a vaguely nautical feel, lots of noisy, middle-aged customers, and a bartender who mixed strong Margaritas. Company and a couple of drinks; that was about all Elaine Bishop needed any more to take her mental state from a persistent, resigned misery to something approaching vague good humor.
She ordered her third after-school drink and began to think out loud. "Y'know, Mark, all this place needs is one of those piano bars to make it just about perfect."
Mark, a graduate student who tended bar part-time, winced and answered, "Well, yeah, Mrs. Bishop, I guess that would be nice. What kind of music, do you think?"
Elaine was not fooled. Mark didn't like talking to her; it was just part of his job and so he did it. But she wanted to talk to a grown-up, so she answered, "Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Count Basie...I like the old lounge songs the best. 'Give me one for my baby...,'" she began to sing and Mark actually took a tiny step back and grimaced. She shrugged and went on, "Customers could take a mike, sometimes, maybe, and sing along. The Monday Karaoke is O.K., but a real pianist, that would be great! I should take some lessons. I'll bet I could play pretty well if I tried."
Mark smiled tightly and nodded, his eyes trailing past the colorful silk flower in her hair. Elaine suddenly realized that a guy like this would probably prefer alternative rock played at bone pain decibels. "Or, well, maybe not," she sighed and looked down again at her book, giving Mark permission to go down the bar to where the big-tipping businessmen were talking sports.
She was re-reading Ginsberg, a favorite of her youth. He was such a poet, such a frighteningly good poet. Now it was her turn to wince. Ginsberg was dead, Brautigan was long dead; so were Cole Porter and Basie and Charlie Parker, come to think of it. But not, Elaine thought a little desperately, not me. No, she went on and on, past a childless, loveless marriage, past her parents, past her friends who had moved on to more interesting people and places. She lingered in this bar and this town, year after pointless year, teaching children she did not likechildren who did not like herdoing it badly and no longer even caring. She was unpopular with the school administrators and parents. Her fellow teachers shunned her, frustrated that their union was forced to defend her and her bad work habits.
Well, screw it, screw them all. She took a long, salty gulp of her Margarita and watched the words on the page fuzz over. She hated it when that happened, as it usually did by six p.m. or so.
Six, time to think about dinner. Elaine had heard somewhere that alcoholics didn't eat regular meals, so she always made sure to eat a good dinner.
She couldn't afford to eat at Harry's Harbor Inn very often, not unless it was a special occasion. The drink prices were high too, but she kept coming anyway. The places with cheap, happy hour two-for-one drinks were too sleazy to consider. They had names like Dew Drop In and catered to painting contractors and retired steel workers who hit on anything in skirts, even a skinny, middle aged, fifth grade teacher.
Dinner, she reminded her fuzzy brain. Let's focus on dinner. Burger King or microwaved pasta?
Her glance fell on the big lobster tank at the end of the bar. Elaine loved the lobsters. She watched them, their rubber banded claws flopping impotently as they swooshed from one side of the bubbling tank to the other, occasionally floating languidly up like buoys, bobbing for a few seconds at the surface and, then plunging again to the bottom to join their fellows piled like dull gray rocks on the glass bottom of the tank.
The one with the golden carapace was staring at her again, twitching its antennae significantly back and forth in a rhythmic, dance-like movement, the way lobsters must move in the ocean bottom. Elaine glanced at the Margarita glass, empty now, except for the broken salt crust along one side. She glanced back at the lobster and wondered for a moment if it was a boy or a girl. She taught crustacean anatomy to her kids at some point or another during the year, but she was damned if she could remember the anatomical differences between lobster sexes. She usually reviewed such facts five minutes before she had to teach, while the brats at their desks made noise and harassed each other.
Whatever the lobster was, male or female, it was definitely waving at her now.
"Yes Mrs. Bishop?" Mark left his conversation and hustled over to her, surprised, she supposed, at her asking for a fourth drink so early.
"Look at that lobster, the one with the gold-ish tinged carapace." She pushed a sticky finger onto the clean glass right over the lobster. "Does he seem unusual to you? Is there anything about him..."
Mark laughed, maybe nervously, Elaine didn't really care. "Well, it's colored a little differently from the others, maybe. But lobster coloration does seem to vary a bit. They come in here in several shades, some are more gray, some more green, and some more red."
"Yes, yes, but doesn't this one look..." She found herself afraid to finish. "Sell it to me, Mark. I want to buy it. Sell it to me."
"Sure, Mrs. Bishop, sure. Just let me call a waitress to take your order."
"No!" she snapped back so loudly that the businessmen down the bar from her glanced over.
"No, Mark, I want it live. I'd just like to take it home in a bag. I...I want it for a class lesson." She was lying, she didn't know why but it seemed really important to lie about this.
"Pretty expensive lesson, Mrs. Bishop."
She smiled, "Not really. I spend two or three hundred dollars every year on stuff for my classroom." This was also not true, not for Elaine. But her colleagues were always shelling out for decorations or pizza or something, so it sounded believable.
Sure enough, Mark nodded agreement. "Yeah, I remember my grade school teachers were always bringing in weird, wonderful things. We loved it. I suspect that's how I originally got interested in math. My fourth grade teacher..."
"Mark," she cut him off with a smile, "do you think you could find a plastic bag? If I could just be sure it wouldn't die it would be so great."
"Pack it in a little ice and it will be just fine," said a voice from down the bar. It was one of the businessmen. "The wife and me, we brought back a dozen lobsters from Maine last summer. They just packed them in a foam chest with seaweed and ice. They were alive and kicking when we got home. Had a feast with the neighbors."
"Great, thanks." Elaine nodded, trying to look pleasantly at the guy, but feeling too blurry to do the job properly.
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